Red Deer NDP candidates say their party is ready with a plan to address the health care crisis, while the UCP only has “a plan to make a plan.”
The NDP primary health care plan, released on Feb. 15, includes creating 10 Family Health Clinics around the province that would be staffed with family doctors and a team of health professionals to better support early treatment and preventative care.
Red Deer has already been identified as one of the first communities that would get a Family Health Clinic.
“Families here are deeply concerned about the serious damage Danielle Smith and the UCP have done to public health care. Even now as the UCP announces another plan to make a plan to address the crisis in primary care, the dollars the UCP claim they will put back into primary care barely catches up with the cuts they have made over the last three and a half years,” said NDP Red Deer-North candidate Jaelene Tweedle.
“With the family health team model we can ensure one million more Albertans will be able to see a family doctor. We can save our system money in the long run, and ensure our health care professionals are supported and enjoy working in Alberta again,” said Tweedle who recently found out her family doctor is leaving Red Deer, a city where no family doctors are taking new patients according to Red Deer Primary Care Network and doctor retirements loom.
NDP Red Deer-South candidate Michelle Baer said it is deeply concerning that the UCP have not come forward with a plan to replace doctors who are retiring or leaving the province and central Albertans are forced to go to Red Deer hospital’s emergency department.
“People across central Alberta are arriving at our hospital with longer wait times than before, they’re sicker than before, and the doctors and the nurses working in these emergency rooms can trace back the chaos they are experiencing to the collapse of primary care in Alberta,” Baer said.
She said the NDP will build on the model of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and will partner with PCNs to develop Family Health Clinics.
The NDP plan calls for a transition fund to immediately begin hiring 1,500 non-physician team members to fortify existing clinics. The aim is to get those workers in place by the end of 2024, while working to open the Family Health Clinics.
Alberta’s UCP government is currently waiting for recommendations from advisory panels on how to improve primary care, but an extra $243 million for primary care over the next three years will be included in next week’s provincial budget.
That money includes $40 million previously committed to support PCNs under a new agreement with the Alberta Medical Association, and $27 million to PCNs for an expected increase of patients attached to a primary care provider.
The remaining $125 million will be used to implement advisory panel recommendations, and $12 million to support IT systems to improve continuity of care across Alberta.
“Alberta’s government is committed to ensuring every Albertan has access to a primary care provider where and when they need it, including here in Red Deer. Red Deer is a growing community and it needs more resources to support our healthcare system, which is why I am pleased that if passed, Budget 2023 will provide $2 billion to support primary healthcare including improving MAPS and providing more supports for Primary Care Networks,” said Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange in a statement.
Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan agreed that health care is a priority for the UCP government which has put a lot of money into health care. He wants those resources directed to where they are needed most, like primary care and Red Deer hospital’s $1.8 billion expansion project.
“Central Alberta had not been treated fairly, and based on merit and need, we were able to see that that (hospital) investment is made. Of course it’s in process, but I want that to continue in all areas of health, that we invest based on merit and need to maximize health care outcomes for Albertans,” Stephan said.
He said he wasn’t familiar with the NDP’s primary care plan, but their ability to execute their plans is weak because NDP policies do not produce prosperity.
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